Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Requests Immunity from Prosecution

  • Netanyahu has emphasized the importance of the immunity statutes that were specifically constituted to protect unjustly indicted leaders.
  • Gaining immunity will allow him to lead the country without being prosecuted for current charges.
  • The debate on whether he’ll receive immunity or not will be held on March 2, after the next elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formally sought immunity from prosecution against current charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. He has requested the Knesset to dismiss the accusations while proclaiming his intentions to lead the country for many more years. The premier has also pushed back against the legal assertions made against him, and said that they are fabricated lies, whose objective is to mislead the public.

Avichai Mandelblit is an Israeli jurist who serves as the Attorney General of Israel since 2016. In November 2019, following a three-year investigation, Mandelblit formally indicted Israel’s sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on three charges of fraud and breach of trust, and one charge of bribery.

In his latest public speech, he’s emphasized the importance of the immunity statutes that were specifically constituted to protect unjustly indicted leaders. This is while urging the Knesset to do the right thing. The following is an excerpt from the statement.

“What is being done to me is a field court-martial by misleading the public. The immunity law is intended to protect elected officials from fabricated legal proceedings — from political indictment intended to damage the will of the people.

This law intends to ensure that those elected can serve the people according to the will of the people, not the will of the law clerks.”

Gaining immunity will allow him to avoid prosecution. Chances of approval are very slim because the request has to meet specific criteria. In the past, Netanyahu would have been granted automatic immunity, but the law was amended in 2005. Members of the Knesset are currently required to submit a request for immunity within 30 days of the Attorney General informing the Speaker of his intentions to indict.

Snap legislative elections were held in Israel on 17 September 2019 to elect the 120 members of the 22nd Knesset. Following the previous elections in April, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition, the first such failure in Israeli history. The do-over election did not provide a clear view of the next government.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit already made this crucial step on December 2. There are several scenarios that could lead to an immunity request being honored. One of them is if the crime was committed as part of the job. The other is if the indictment is found to have been executed in a discriminatory manner. Thirdly is in the event that an offense is committed inside the Knesset, in which case there are due internal processes to be followed. Finally, the indictment process can be halted if it curtails house assembly functions.

Netanyahu and his proponents are already carrying out public campaigns that underline the Knesset’s zeal to convict him, while is ignoring similar crimes committed by members. Based on this trend alone, it is likely that his argument will be crutched on this rationale. Votes cast will, unfortunately, be highly political and partisan, and his party lacks the majority required to approve the request.

There are other complications, as well. The debate on whether he’ll receive immunity or not will be held on March 2, after the next elections. And so it’s hard to predict how many political supporters will be on his side. The multiplex situation is further compounded by the fact that any decision made by the Knesset is likely to be opposed in the High Court of Justice.

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Samuel Gush

Samuel Gush is a Technology, Entertainment, and Political News writer at Communal News.

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